Learning about Native heritage in Spokane
Drumheller Springs Park is – no surprise – named after a white man. He found the spring and decided the location was perfect for a slaughterhouse.
But before he sought to make a buck on free water, the Interior Salish people rested here. It was a flat hilltop with riparian trees, scattered basalt rock, and camas flowers. A lovely spot – open to the sun but providing willow shade and a view to the hills beyond.
It’s 10 acres in the middle of the city, right on the Maple/Ash couplet running north-side, west of downtown. People drive by a thousand times without a clue the park is here. A humble stone wall on the east boundary now displays art done by local members of the Spokane Tribe. But cars are driving 35 mph around a corner, and if people notice the art at all, they certainly won’t notice a brown and green wooden sign that says Drumheller Springs Park. Why? Because it sits on a hill, perched 15 feet above the sidewalk, facing the opposite direction that traffic would see, under the shade of a tree. No wonder I’ve lived here 23 years and never knew of it, despite being a park enthusiast.
As I reflect on it here in the park itself, I’m sitting on a rocky hump out in the open. There are a few Ponderosa pines within a hundred feet, and a dried up creekbed to the south. Around the south and north perimeters are homes, a reminder of the city’s encroachment.
I felt the rock and the dry moss, wondered if it was comfortable to sleep on, wondered if the moss would come back to life and offer moisture again.
I leave the woods and head to the south side to return to my car by a different way, and there across the street is a tall granite stone monument with an inscription. Chief Garry, it says, was taken by a member of the Hudson Bay Co. to a mission, and later came back to teach his people for 60 years. Whose version of his history is written, I wonder. The marvelous whites who felt educating him as a Protestant Christian would be good use of his passions? The man named Garry who insisted that the Spokane native should bear his name?
I head back into the city disgusted and bewildered, and I seek out other locations to learn more about Spokane’s favorite Native, Chief Garry.
First, I turn and see this mother, kneeling on a path with a toddler who wanted out of the stroller; they stay a while, watching, listening. The mother is unhurried, patient. Together, they enjoy “Drumheller’s” park in the way the Native Spokane Tribe members might appreciate.